Get Your Comfort Food On: Homemade Mac and Cheese, Please!

Recipe video by Vic Chin

Mac and Cheese makes a regular appearance at our dinner table. And I’m not talking about the neon-orange version made with processed powder (yes, I know folks love the boxed kind, but I don’t). Once you get the method down, it honestly couldn’t be easier to prepare. Not only that but (nearly) EVERYONE LOVES IT. Even the pickiest kids will eat it. And if you make it yourself, you can feel good about knowing exactly what went into it.

And it is endlessly versatile. I’ve given you a basic version here, but just think of this as a starting point. I like a nice sharp white Cheddar, but you could also use a mild orange Cheddar for a more classic look. Or use a mixture of cheese if you like, such as 1 cup Cheddar and 1 cup Fontina, or 1 cup Cheddar and 1 cup Gruyere.

    There are loads of possibilities for add-ins too. Just stir one or more of these in at the end with the pasta:
  • 1/2 cup diced ham
  • 1/4 cup chopped, crisp-cooked bacon
  • 1 cup cooked mushrooms, such as cremini, shiitake, or mixed wild mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup frozen petite peas (they will cook in the oven)
  • 1 cup chopped, blanched-until-crisp-tender broccoli florets

If you like, once you transfer the mac and cheese to your baking dish but before you pop it in the oven, you can top it with a layer of buttery breadcrumbs or panko to get a nice crunchy topping.

Typically, I serve this as the main dish with plenty of steamed or roasted veggies alongside. But it also works as a side dish to roasted or barbecued meats. You can easily double this recipe for a crowd, and if you want to get fancy, divide the mixture between individual ramekins so everyone gets their own special portion.

Homemade Mac and Cheese right out of the oven.
Homemade Mac and Cheese right out of the oven. (Wendy Goodfriend)

Recipe: Homemade Mac and Cheese

Makes 6 servings

    Ingredients:
  • ½ lb elbow macaroni or other small, hollow pasta shape 3 tbsp unsalted butter ¼ cup minced yellow onion
  • 3 tbsp all-purpose flour 1½ cups whole milk
  • 2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar
  • Kosher salt
    Instructions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Grease a 2-quart gratin or an 8 or 9-inch square baking dish.
  2. In a saucepan, bring plenty of salted water to a boil, add the macaroni, and cook until al dente according to package directions. Drain in a colander, rinse with cold water, and set aside.
  3. In a saucepan, bring plenty of salted water to a boil, add the macaroni, and cook until al dente.
    In a saucepan, bring plenty of salted water to a boil, add the macaroni, and cook until al dente. (Wendy Goodfriend)
    Drain in a colander, rinse with cold water.
    Drain in a colander, rinse with cold water. (Wendy Goodfriend)
    Set macaroni aside until ready to add to sauce.
    Set macaroni aside until ready to add to sauce. (Wendy Goodfriend)
  4. In the same saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until tender and golden, about 7 minutes.
  5. In the same saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until tender and golden, about 7 minutes.
    In the same saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until tender and golden, about 7 minutes. (Wendy Goodfriend)
  6. Sprinkle the flour over the onions, and whisk until smooth.
  7. Sprinkle the flour over the onions, and whisk until smooth.
    Sprinkle the flour over the onions, and whisk until smooth. (Wendy Goodfriend)
  8. Slowly add the milk, whisking until smooth after each addition. Let simmer for about 2 minutes.
  9. Slowly add the milk, whisking until smooth after each addition. Let simmer for about 2 minutes.
    Slowly add the milk, whisking until smooth after each addition. Let simmer for about 2 minutes. (Wendy Goodfriend)
  10. Slowly add the cheese, whisking until smooth. Season to taste with salt.
  11. Slowly add the cheese, whisking until smooth. Season to taste with salt.
    Slowly add the cheese, whisking until smooth. Season to taste with salt. (Wendy Goodfriend)
    The blended sauce should have a creamy consistency.
    The blended sauce should have a creamy consistency. (Wendy Goodfriend)
  12. Stir in the macaroni. Scrape the mac and cheese into the prepared baking dish. Bake until bubbly and golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let stand about 5 minutes before serving.
  13. Stir in the macaroni.
    Stir in the macaroni. (Wendy Goodfriend)
    Scrape the mac and cheese into the prepared baking dish.
    Scrape the mac and cheese into the prepared baking dish. (Wendy Goodfriend)
    Bake until bubbly and golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let stand about 5 minutes before serving.
    Bake until bubbly and golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let stand about 5 minutes before serving. (Wendy Goodfriend)
    Serve the homemade mac and cheese.
    Serve the homemade mac and cheese. (Wendy Goodfriend)

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